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Star Wars: The Face of Evil – A Beyond the Films Review

With a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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The Face of Evil by Landry Q. Walker (ebook, 2015)

In April 2016, a new anthology – something Star Wars fans have long been hoping for – will be released. The book, Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens will include six stories, four of which were recently released as separate ebooks, months before seeing physical print. Unlike in previous anthologies, all of the stories in this new tome will be written by a single author, Landry Q. Walker. Each story will feature alien characters from The Force Awakens. This review focuses on one of the four stories released in December 2015.

The Face of Evil

Short stories in Star Wars tend to be fairly straightforward, and horror/thriller tales in Star Wars rarely actually creep me out or surprise me. The Face of Evil managed to pull off that rare experience, while seemingly being just another straightforward tale as it began.

The story follows criminal Ryn Biggleston, partner of BeeLee Amdas. During a recent job, BeeLee was spotted by security cameras, leading Ryn to steal her part of their loot and leave her to die. Now, Ryn has come to Takodana with her identity and most-wanted status revealed to the sector in one last act of defiance by her dying former partner.

Escaping the many individuals on her tail means a change of identity, and no one at Maz Kanata’s castle is better at giving clients a new identity than the Frigosian “mad scientist” cryptosurgeons, Thromba and Laparo.

To go into any more detail would spoil some great moments in this story that make it feel straight out of an old episode of Tales from the Crypt. It is a fairly simple premise to start, and the Frigosians are rather strange, which can make them tough to get interested in at first. Stick with the story past the first couple of chapters, though, and you are in for a treat.

Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Story?

Unfortunately, like most stories in our “journey” to the new film, this story has no real relevance to the movie at all. Like with other stories in the line, this is a Tales from Mos Eisley (et al) style short story to give us an adventure for some of the aliens seen in Maz’s castle in The Force Awakens. Unlike the anthologies of the 1990s though, no attempt is made to actually tie the actual story into the film beyond shared characters. The label simply does not fit the content.

The Verdict

The Face of Evil was a pleasant surprise and certainly the high point of the four ebooks released that will later be among the six in Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens. At only $1.99 currently in ebook form (or as part of the upcoming anthology), fans who enjoy a good Tales from the Crypt-esque story now and then should definitely check it out.

Recommended for: Those interested in a creepy Star Wars tale that is reminiscent of the old Tales from the Crypt series.

Not recommended for: Those looking for something that truly ties directly into The Force Awakens or those who are squeamish.

A retail purchase ebook (on Nook) was used for this review.

Review: Star Wars Colouring Book

Review: Star Wars Colouring Book (or, I Tie Dyed The Dead TIE)

Do you colour? I don’t and, aside from the odd occasion where needs must, like attending to my sister’s small humans, I haven’t truly done so since infant school. So of course that makes me perfect for reviewing the Star Wars Colouring Book (The Force Awakens edition) published by Egmont. And do you know what I discovered? My skills have not improved much. Or at all, really. My own mother would be embarrassed to put my ‘art’ on the fridge. Admittedly it’s a fancy fridge, with an ice-cube dispencer, but still. Thus this book brought me low. Quite low indeed.

I’m joking, of course*, but I’m not a colouring person. It’s great if you are, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great, relaxing, almost meditative passtime, and I wouldn’t hold it against you if you like it. But my point is, I’m coming at this from a place of ignorance, so if I get something so wrong that you need to do some colouring in to calm down, I’m sorry.

*Not even slightly. I’m a terrible colourer.

First, the specifics: this book contains 18 pictures of varying difficulty, intended for young humans of not quite drinking age. So, 8, 9? We start our kids off young in England. Younger in Scotland, though admittedly they start attending philosophy classes at 5, so that’s understandable (not condoning underage drinking, of course, merely acknowledging the inherent toll that thinking takes). But getting back on topic, let’s unpack that first sentence, because there’s more caveats than a bear can shake a stick at. Wait, that’s cave. Never mind.

First – or second. Or second first: from what I gather (from someone who is an avid colourer inner), these are quite easy pictures to colour in. However, this is not the impression that I received. As you may know, small humans lack the necessary motor skills to handle the finer detail. These pictures – which are a fairly equal mix of vehicles and characters – have several aspects, particularly about a person, that would make it difficult to be terribly exact when filling in the colours. Some details that are a bit too intricate. Perhaps I’m just being finnicky, but that was my impression. And not just that, but pictures that have a great deal of detail to complete. I recall one in particular: an interior shot of the Millenium Falcon, with Chewbacca and BB-8 inside, that was so packed with bits and pieces that I was quite fatigued upon finishing it.

Although saying that, many pictures do seem fairly simple and easy to complete. The (exterior) vehicle pictures, for example, do maintain a simpleness in colour palette. Though that also begs the question: do you stay to what is canonical? One thing, which is perhaps a negative, is that there’s no reference material with which to draw (figuratively speaking) upon. Perhaps that is intended? Again, my ignorance rears its head. It does mean, were you so intended, that you could get really creative – to such a degree that, were a hippie to somehow travel across time from the height of the 60s and see your picture, even they would say the colouring is a bit too far out. But nevermind what some hypothetical hippie might say, you can have the colours be whatever you like, without feeling obligated to adhere to canon.

And yet, I was one of those people who did feel that obligation, who did want to get it exactly right, which meant I spent a lot of time googling The Force Awakens pictures – through half covered eyes, because I hadn’t seen the film yet, and Google is currently a minefield of spoilers.

I'm sorry, who is Rey's father? Chewbacca?!

I’m sorry, who did you say is Rey’s father? Chewbacca?!

To return to the original point, the pictures themselves are a mix of technicaly detail – which (above grumbling aside) was mostly appreciated, and empty space – which was not. The technicaly detail meant that I didn’t have to do any actual drawing just to make this X-wing or that command shuttle appear exact and complete. The empty space was quite annoying, because with the amount of detail crammed into perhaps half or a third of the page, that empty vastness that was space, or the sand dunes of Jakku or, or, well, more space, the emptiness was just begging to be filled. So there I was, drawing extra TIE fighters and X-wings, or a wampa in an astronaut’s suit floating in space, just to settle that itch. I wonder if this is what George Lucas feels like when he watches the original trilogy. Huh. I’ll never mock that man again.

So that brings us to the second point. Or second second. Or – oh I give up. The age range. The book states no intended range, though at a guess I’d put it at 6-8 years, so keep that in mind should you choose to purchase this.

Let’s talk about the pictures themselves – beyond difficulty. Are they pretty? Is the finished product, if we stick to canon, vibrant? In terms of beauty, I wouldn’t say I was particularly bowled over by them. That said, there was one picture of several X-wings in flight, which was quite evocative for me. But then I must ask the follow up question: are they meant to be pretty? Or are they supposed to be only challenging? Well, the obvious answer is, why can’t they be both? I’m mostly on board with that line of thought, but at the same time, perhaps the point of colouring isn’t so much that the starter image is pretty, but that you yourself make it so through your own activities. You provide the life and the depth to the image by colouring it. If they were pretty enough to begin with, what would be the point? It would hardly be fair to have something be so good that to apply your colouring skills (or lack thereof, in my case) would only diminish it.

So, are they vibrant, striking? Well, yes, and no. These new star destroyers, with their stark whiteness, can hardly be called vibrant. Striking yes, particularly to Jedi, but not so much to the eye. The X-wing, slightly more so, with its black and orange design. So perhaps it’s better to take the ‘choose your own’ aproach. Pick whatever colour you desire. Use the Force, let it guide your actions. And paint the Falcon pink.

Michael Dare

Star Wars Colouring Book, published by Egmont, is out now everywhere. With thanks to Egmont UK for providing a copy for review purposes.

Review: Star Wars Before The Awakening

Review: Star Wars Before The Awakening (or, Star Wars Asleep)

Star Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka, published by Egmont, is a collection of three short stories, with each centred around our new Big Three of Finn, Rey and Poe. As such, I thought it best to focus on each story, as is, rather than review the book as a whole (though I will do a little of that).

PLEASE NOTE: There will be mild spoilers of the book, and due to the nature of the stories, these ought to be treated as spoilers for the film, as well. THIS IS YOUR FINAL SPOILER WARNING. Continue reading

The Force Awakens Cast Doesn’t Need to Go to Lightsaber Fight School

I love Sam Jackson. However, I think he’s dead wrong about the lightsaber duels in TFA.

Samuel Jackson thinks the Star Wars: The Force Awakens actors need to “go to lightsaber fight school.”

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Mace Windu himself – the man with the purple lightsaber seemed taken aback by the untrained, and rather raw choreography of the lightsaber fights in TFA.

“It’s done in the spirit of the Star Wars films,” he said, obviously holding back. “It’s adventuresome, it’s exciting in a way. I think the kids need to go to lightsaber fight school but that’s just me, they got time to get better.”

Yes, the lightsaber fights in TFA are raw, untrained and unrefined.

That’s because they should be raw, untrained and unrefined.

The simple fact of the matter is in the Galaxy of The Force Awakens, there are no lightsaber fight schools. The Jedi are gone from the universe, all but forgotten. Spoilers to follow…

Keep in mind that when Finn and Rey face Kylo, neither of them have ever been trained in lightsaber combat. The only way they were able to even have a chance at surviving the fight is because Chewie had taken a direct shot at Ren’s gut with the Bowcaster of Doom.

In an interview with Empire Magazine last Month, J.J. Abrams addressed the issue of Lightsaber combat in TFA:

When you look at Star Wars and Empire, they are very different lightsaber battles, but for me they felt more powerful because they were not quite as slick [as the prequels]. I was hoping to go for something much more primitive, aggressive and rougher, a throwback to the kind of heart-stopping lightsaber fights I remembered being so enthralled by as a kid.

At least for me, the lightsaber fight at the end of TFA was indeed heartstopping. While not as elegant and high-speed and the Lightsaber battles of the Prequels, the moment where Rey calls the Skywalker saber to her hand gives me chills almost every time I see it. That’s the emotional pull at the root of the lightsaber combat in TFA.

-Riley

Beyond the Films 2016 New Year Contest

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To celebrate the beginning of 2016 and the upcoming 200th episode of Star Wars Beyond the Films, hosts Mark and Nathan are giving away items that come from their own Star Wars collections (including some that have the distinction of having been used when creating summaries for Nathan’s The Star Wars Timeline Gold).

Up for grabs in this contest are:

  • A huge prize pack of webcodes (emailed to the winner) for characters and expansions in the digital (PC or mobile device) version of Disney Infinity 3.0, including all of the Star Wars, Marvel, Tron LegacyPirates of the Caribbean, and Nightmare Before Christmas characters released thus far, and more.
  • Two smaller prize packs with Disney Infinity 3.0 webcodes for characters to be used in the digital version of the game.
  • Marvel’s Star Wars #1 – 13 (first printings)
  • Marvel’s Darth Vader #1 – 13 (first printings)
  • Marvel Mini-Series: Lando #1 – 5Princess Leia #1 – 5, and Chewbacca #1 – 2 (all first printings)
  • Aftermath (hardcover)
  • Before the Awakening (hardcover)
  • Battlefront: Twilight Company (hardcover)
  • Sampler Duo: The 2015 Del Rey Star Wars Sampler and the recent Marvel Comics Star Wars preview comic
  • Several separate copies of the recent Marvel Comics Star Wars preview comic
  • A signed copy of the Movie Magic magazine in which Nathan wrote an article on the then-upcoming The Force Awakens.

Moreover, since we know that many of our listeners have picked up Nathan’s Equals and Opposites story from Star Wars Tales in some form, or one of his other published works, and might want a signed item to put with it, every entry (while supplies last) will receive either a signed Star Wars Action News trading card of Nathan (from when that other podcast did a set of trading cards of all of the team members) or a signed WARS Trading Card Game card with some relevance to Nathan’s WARS: The Battle of Phobos novellas from Grail Quest Books.

So, how do you enter? Listen to this brief contest info episode for details!

(Entries must be received by Feb. 29, 2016.)